Cardiff Women’s Aid defines domestic abuse as an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence, by a partner or ex-partner. It is very common. In the vast majority of cases it is experienced by women and is perpetrated by men.
Domestic violence/abuse can include, but is not limited to, the following:
- Coercive control (a pattern of intimidation, degradation, isolation and control with the use or threat of physical or sexual violence)
- Psychological and/or emotional abuse
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Financial abuse
- Online or digital abuse
Domestic violence/abuse is a gendered crime which is deeply rooted in the societal inequality between women and men. It takes place “because she is a woman and happens disproportionately to women.”
Women are more likely than men to experience multiple incidents of abuse, different types of domestic abuse (intimate partner violence, sexual assault and stalking) and in particular sexual violence. Any woman can experience domestic abuse regardless of race, ethnic or religious group, sexuality, class, or disability, but some women who experience other forms of oppression and discrimination may face further barriers to disclosing abuse and finding help.
Domestic abuse exists as part of violence against women and girls; which also includes different forms of family violence such as forced marriage, female genital mutilation and so called “honour crimes” that are perpetrated primarily by family members, often with multiple perpetrators.
Recognising domestic abuse
Although every situation is unique, there are common factors that link the experience of an abusive relationship. Acknowledging these factors is an important step in preventing and stopping the abuse. This list can help you to recognise if you, or someone you know, are in an abusive relationship.
They include :
- Destructive criticism and verbal abuse: shouting; mocking; accusing; name calling; verbally threatening.
- Pressure tactics: sulking; threatening to withhold money, disconnecting the phone and internet, taking away or destroying your mobile, tablet or laptop, taking the car away, taking the children away; threatening to report you to the police, social services or the mental health team unless you comply with his demands; threatening or attempting self-harm and suicide; withholding or pressuring you to use drugs or other substances; lying to your friends and family about you; telling you that you have no choice in any decisions.
- Disrespect: persistently putting you down in front of other people; not listening or responding when you talk; interrupting your telephone calls; taking money from your purse without asking; refusing to help with childcare or housework.
- Breaking trust: lying to you; withholding information from you; being jealous; having other relationships; breaking promises and shared agreements.
- Isolation: monitoring or blocking your phone calls, e-mails and social media accounts, telling you where you can and cannot go; preventing you from seeing friends and relatives; shutting you in the house.
- Harassment: following you; checking up on you; not allowing you any privacy (for example, opening your mail, going through your laptop, tablet or mobile), repeatedly checking to see who has phoned you; embarrassing you in public; accompanying you everywhere you go.
- Threats: making angry gestures; using physical size to intimidate; shouting you down; destroying your possessions; breaking things; punching walls; wielding a knife or a gun; threatening to kill or harm you and the children; threatening to kill or harm family pets; threats of suicide.
- Sexual violence: using force, threats or intimidation to make you perform sexual acts; having sex with you when you don’t want it; forcing you to look at pornographic material; constant pressure and harassment into having sex when you don’t want to, forcing you to have sex with other people; any degrading treatment related to your sexuality or to whether you are lesbian, bisexual or heterosexual.
- Physical violence: punching; slapping; hitting; biting; pinching; kicking; pulling hair out; pushing; shoving; burning; strangling, pinning you down, holding you by the neck, restraining you.
- Denial: saying the abuse doesn’t happen; saying you caused the abuse; saying you wind him up; saying he can’t control his anger; being publicly gentle and patient; crying and begging for forgiveness; saying it will never happen again.
How common is domestic abuse?
At Cardiff Women's Aid we know through our work over the last 45 years with survivors and our local community, that domestic violence/abuse is still far too common.
Any woman can experience domestic violence/abuse regardless of race, ethnic or religious group, class, disability or lifestyle.
Domestic violence/abuse can also take place in lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender relationships, and can involve other family members, including children.
- On average two women are killed by their partner or ex-partner every week in England and Wales.
- Domestic abuse-related crime is 8% of total crime.
- On average the police receive an emergency call relating to domestic abuse every 30 seconds.
- Domestic cases now account for 14.1% of all court prosecutions, and the volume of prosecutions rose this year to the highest level ever of 92,779 . 92.4% of defendants were male and 7.6% were women. 84% of victims were female and 16% were male.
On December 29th 2015 a new criminal offence of domestic abuse “coercive and controlling behaviour” came into force.
- 95 out of 100 domestic abuse survivors in one study reported experiencing coercive control.
- In a survey of over 450 domestic abuse practitioners, 62% believe there needs to be improved understanding of the traits and techniques of coercive and controlling behaviour among frontline officers.
- Three quarters of forces (34 forces) include coercive control as part of their domestic abuse training.
- The 2014/2015 Crime Survey for England and Wales found that 63% of female partner abuse victims had experienced non-physical abuse (emotional or financial) in the last year.
Measuring the scale of domestic abuse
Statistics are extremely valuable when trying to understand the scale of domestic abuse but it is important to remember that they often cannot give us the full picture.
Domestic abuse is a largely hidden crime, occurring mainly in homes behind closed doors. As such, it can be difficult to record the context in which abuse is being perpetrated, or accurately measure the impact of the abuse on those who experience it.
Women are often afraid or unable to report or disclose domestic abuse to the police and may under-report domestic abuse in surveys, particularly during face-to-face interviews